Many in the Windows Phone community know one of its best-kept secrets; The Connects program. Once known as Nokia Connects — when the team came across during the Microsoft acquisition — the team now has exciting news to share.
As of today, Connects is no more as a brand. The program and the team behind it has become an official Microsoft channel.
Say hello to Lumia Voices.
I had the pleasure of talking to the team recently about the upcoming changes. To a lot of people in the community, Connects has been a central part and offered some unique opportunities to connect with the manufacturer.
If you're not familiar, here's a quick background check courtesy of Bosola Ajenifuja, Global Advocacy Manager of Microsoft Lumia:
"When the Connects programme first started, it was all about giving people who love their tech the chance to put our devices to the test in new and exciting ways. Reaching out to them via their forums and blogs.
The trial programme, which has been running for eight years, has been a fantastic way for us to get people to share their genuine and honest opinions about our products.
It's been a really great way to build an amazing community of people who have strong friendships with each other and a strong relationship with the brand. "
Nokia World 2013 in Abu Dhabi
One of those unique opportunities has been taking some of the community out to special events. I, for example, went out to Nokia World in Abu Dhabi with Connects before I was a full-time member of the Windows Central team. Besides being an incredible experience both with Microsoft and seeing an amazing location such as that, it was great meeting other community members and making new friends.
Naturally, the community enjoys going to places like this or MWC in Barcelona, but why do it at all?
"It creates an opportunity for us to get that face to face time with the community. We love to take the time to introduce our community to the people behind the scenes who make the brand what it is, like product managers, engineers and senior leaders, who can share with them the vision for Lumia and for Microsoft, as we grow and evolve as a business."
It isn't just tech bloggers and enthusiasts either:
"The past couple of years it's been really important for us to bring together people from really diverse backgrounds. We now include photographers, artists and explorers in the programme - really anyone who is doing something inspiring and helping to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with our devices".
"Whether it's meetups or launch events we're always looking for opportunities to bring our community along and help make them part of the story we're creating."
There have also been the weekly Instagram takeovers at the weekends. Someone from the community takes over the team's Instagram account and delivers a Lumia powered photo tour around their part of the world. And the results are often breathtaking.
The good news is that what everyone loved about Connects isn't going away. Ultimately the core aspects of how the team and the company interact with the community remains the same and will only continue to grow as time goes by.
So why Lumia Voices, then?
"We really wanted a name that stood for what the program is truly about, which is the voice and spirit of our community. For us, the programme is about getting the devices into the hands of people who have stories to tell, and supporting those stories through the technology we can provide."
A Lumia 435 provided to us by Connects
One of the first interactions that newcomers have is through the device trials. For some, this is a way to check out the latest that Lumia has to offer. For others, it's a first-time experience with Microsoft, Lumia and Windows Phone as a platform.
You'd be hard pushed to find another manufacturer that will willingly send out its devices to the general public to trial. Sometimes it's hard enough getting them to review as members of the media!
The trials are a great way to introduce people to the platform, and those are certainly set to continue. In fact, it's beginning to extend beyond just Lumia with Surface.
"We want to show the community what one experience really means and how we are now all part of Microsoft as a whole. With our Surface and Lumia trials, that's just the beginning of us creating new ways for you to experience a mix of our devices and services together.
Trials wouldn't be worth doing unless Microsoft saw benefit in doing so, and the success of the program ultimately comes down to the response of the community.
"Here at Microsoft we love the content you create. It's really inspiring to see how you guys are able to take our devices and create beautiful images, as well as teach other people how to use our devices and get the best out of them. There's a really strong appreciation within Microsoft for our community, and how it helps spread the word about Lumia and Microsoft as a whole.
And that's not just through the trials programme but also through the amazing experiences and stories we are able to create with you."
Microsoft at Mobile World Congress 2015
So, while the name is changing, what made the Connects program so popular and successful will remain. Lumia Voices is the future of the Microsoft Lumia community and in closing they had this to say to you. To everyone who helped make it what it is today.
"We just want to say a big thank you to the entire community for how much they've supported us over the years. We always talk about how much you guys really give and how much you create and how amazing the content you create is.
We're really inspired by it, and it's a massive thank you from us for being on the journey with us and we're really proud of it."
The journey continues, and we're proud to be a part of it. So, welcome, Lumia Voices!